Even a wise man can goof!
by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
Epiphany, the celebration of the arrival of the wise men at the house where the baby Jesus was staying, has come and gone. They arrived late, you notice. Instead of going directly to Bethlehem, they lost their way and had to seek directions. They say it is hard for a man to do ask for directions. I wouldn’t know about that, but I do know that I only do it as a last resort!
You’ve got to hand it to them, though. They really tried to figure out on their own the best way to reach their destination. Since they had apparently lost track of the star that was guiding them, they depended on their own smarts to get them out of their predicament. The star heralded the birth of a new king, right? And where does one go to look for a newborn king? A palace, of course! So to the palace they went, and set in motion a chain of events that led to the slaughter of an unknown number of baby boys aged two and under.
We can’t blame the wise men for making a logical decision; since they had come from afar, they had no way of knowing that the king whose good will and advice they sought, the king who was famous for his magnificent building projects, was a victim of a paranoia that drove him to protect his throne at all costs, including the execution of his favorite wife and once-beloved sons—and the slaughter of innocents. And they did get the information they needed to complete their quest for the Christ-child. Of course, once they left the palace, they again saw the star they had originally followed, and it was the star, not the directions of the king’s seers that led them to the place where Jesus was.
I wonder if, had those wise men had kept their eyes on the star instead of looking “in the logical place,” the palace in Jerusalem, the horrible consequences might have been avoided?
Matthew indicates that all of this was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, which means only that God knew what would happen, not that God caused it to happen. God prepared a star to lead the wise men to the Christ—but the detour by way of the palace was governed by the assumptions of the men, not the instructions of God.
We must never forget the devotion that led wise men from the East to launch out without question on what they knew would be a long, uncomfortable journey. Their example is admirable, their desire to attend and honor the birth of a divinely appointed King inspiring. But there is more to this record of their trip than meets the casual eye—there usually is, when God is involved!
Here are some of the things I learned from the wise men:
1. Sometimes the path God wants us to take is not what may at the time appear to be the most logical path, but in the long run it will prove to be the best.
2. God gifted us with intelligence—a mind that is capable of decision-making, but he expects us to use that power under his guidance.
3. God can use my mistakes to accomplish his purposes—but I suspect that he’d rather I try to avoid making foolish mistakes in the first place by (a) seeking his guidance, and (b) paying attention to it!
4. It is not a good idea to try to outguess God.